ESPN has teamed up with Netflix to release the Michael Jordan documentary series The Last Dance, which follows the basketball legend and his team the Chicago Bulls through the 97-98 NBA season.
The 97-98 NBA season would see the Chicago Bulls chase their sixth championship trophy, the team led by iconic player Michael Jordan alongside superstars Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman. Their journey through the season was a tempestuous one, however, with tensions running high in the locker room following the decision by general manager Jerry Krause declaring that the season would be Phil Jackson’s last as head coach, with the further intention to split up the team and begin the rebuilding process at the end of it. The Bulls team gave a documentary film crew exclusive behind-the-scenes access to document the season, resulting in some outstanding, dramatic material.
The first episode sets the scene for the series and features an in-depth look at Jordan’s journey into the NBA through his college basketball days – footage that is super-impressive to behold. Alongside this, we’re treated to interviews from all the key players involved with the Bulls during that period, as well as guest interviewees from the extended media and sporting world. While the first episode doesn’t dive too deeply into the behind-the-scenes conflicts, nor over-dramatizes them, we can sense that things are bad for the Bulls during that period, and are set to get to worse. It’s clever editing on the filmmaker’s part to give just enough details to entice the audience to keep coming back for more, to keep them invested over the show’s ten-episode run.
The second episode switches the primary focus over to Jordan’s number-two, Scottie Pippen (Jordan still gets his fair share of coverage though). Jordan, by his own admission, would not have been the player he was without Pippen by his side, feeding him playmaking balls. Criminally underpaid compared to his peers, Pippen would make a decision that would ultimately hurt the Bulls’ run at their next championship (at least initially), and the filmmakers, through Pippen’s own words and the words of those close to him, go into detail about the reasoning behind his decision and where his headspace was during that time. Some of the revelations about Pippen’s place in the NBA and his pay status can be considered shocking, causing the audience to empathize with the player.
The first two episodes of The Last Dance offer a perfect introduction of what to expect in the season to come, with many more bombs sure to be dropped. We can see early on that ego’s will inflate, causing more drama between the team and management as the Bulls aim to cement their legacy as one of the greatest sports dynasties ever. The unprecedented behind-the-scenes footage is something that sports lovers can only ever dream of having access to and the filmmakers of The Last Dance have delivered just that. The audience essentially gets to become another player on an elite-level team, while getting an intriguing, all-inclusive education on the inner-workings of a championship-winning sports team.